Assessing ‘Putin.War’ — A Look At the Last Investigation By Boris Nemtsov and His Colleagues

May 28, 2015
Chechen fighters in the Donbass

On May 28, the English-language edition of Putin.War, the report opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was working on when he was assassinated was released in Washington, DC. It was prepared by the Free Russia Foundation and translated by The Interpreter‘s Catherine A. Fitzpatrick. A meeting was held at the Atlantic Council to present the report, where Nemtsov’s colleague Ilya Yashin, a leader of the RPR-PARNAS opposition party of which Nemtsov had been vice chairman, spoke about how his friends and colleagues had finished the report on his behalf.

As we reported when the original report was released in Moscow May 12, it is intended primarily to educate a Russian audience on the realities of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Yashin coordinated the report; former vice premier Alfred Kokh; journalists Ayder Muzhdabayev and Oleg Kashin; PARNAS member Leonid Martynyk and Olga Shorina, the executive director of the party as well as Sergei Aleksashenko, economist and former Russian deputy minister of finance also participated.

Yashin said that 14 printers refused to take the job; finally one was found and the initial print run was only 2,000, just enough to give out copies at presentations planned in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yaroslavl, Chelyabinsk and other cities. The site where the Russian original is located has been subjected to DDoS attacks but is functioning now and a number of mirror sites have been made.

In Washington, 250 hard copies will be made available. A PDF file can be accessed here.

The question has been repeatedly asked whether there is anything in the report that was not known before, or anything in it whose disclosure would constitute a reason to assassinate Nemtsov.

We provide here summaries of four main issues that are important about this report:

1. The work of Nemtsov and his colleagues in challenging the Russian government over the facts of Russian military involvement in Ukraine, in a series of formal inquiries over the past year and now this report, and the testimony of servicemen and their families in Ivanovo and Kostryoma, now silenced;

2. The estimates of Russian servicemen (mainly contract soldiers) in Ukraine (7,000) and local Russian-backed separatist fighters (28,000) and the cost of the war including the maintenance of these troops ($92 million a month) plus weapons and armored vehicles (a total of $1 billion);

3. Documentation of control of the Donbass insurgents by the Kremlin;

4. Additional details about the photographer who took pictures of the Buk launched to down MH17 which have not been previously published.